[The Vision and the Briggs of Ayr, are said by Jeffrey to be "the only
pieces by Burns which can be classed under the head of pure fiction:"
but Tam O' Shanter and twenty other of his compositions have an equal
right to be classed with works of fiction. The edition of this poem
published at Kilmarnock, differs in some particulars from the edition
which followed in Edinburgh. The maiden whose foot was so handsome as
to match that of Coila, was a Bess at first, but old affection
triumphed, and Jean, for whom the honour was from the first designed,
regained her place. The robe of Coila, too, was expanded, so far
indeed that she got more cloth than she could well carry.]
The sun had clos'd the winter day,
The curlers quat their roaring play,
An' hunger'd maukin ta'en her way
To kail-yards green,
While faithless snaws ilk step betray
Whare she has been.
The thresher's weary flingin'-tree
The lee-lang day had tired me;
And when the day had closed his e'e
Far i' the west,
Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie,
I gaed to rest.
There, lanely, by the ingle-cheek,
I sat and ey'd the spewing reek,
That fill'd, wi' hoast-provoking smeek,
The auld clay biggin';
An' heard the restless rattons squeak
About the riggin'.
All in this mottie, misty clime,
I backward mused on wastet time,
How I had spent my youthfu' prime,
An' done nae thing,
But stringin' blethers up in rhyme,
For fools to sing.
Had I to guid advice but harkit,
I might, by this hae led a market,
Or strutted in a bank an' clarkit
While here, half-mad, half-fed, half-sarkit,
Is a' th' amount.
I started, mutt'ring, blockhead! coof!
And heav'd on high my waukit loof,
To swear by a' yon starry roof,
Or some rash aith,
That I, henceforth, would be rhyme-proof
Till my last breath--
When, click! the string the snick did draw:
And, jee! the door gaed to the wa';
An' by my ingle-lowe I saw,
Now bleezin' bright,
A tight outlandish hizzie, braw
Come full in sight.
Ye need na doubt, I held my wisht;
The infant aith, half-form'd, was crusht;
I glowr'd as eerie's I'd been dusht
In some wild glen;
When sweet, like modest worth, she blusht,
And stepped ben.
Green, slender, leaf-clad holly-boughs
Were twisted, gracefu', round her brows,
I took her for some Scottish Muse,
By that same token;
An' come to stop those reckless vows,
Wou'd soon be broken.
A "hair-brain'd, sentimental trace"
Was strongly marked in her face;
A wildly-witty, rustic grace
Shone full upon her:
Her eye, ev'n turn'd on empty space,
Beam'd keen with honour.
Down flow'd her robe, a tartan sheen,
'Till half a leg was scrimply seen:
And such a leg! my bonnie Jean
Could only peer it;
Sae straught, sae taper, tight, and clean,
Nane else came near it.
Her mantle large, of greenish hue,
My gazing wonder chiefly drew;
Deep lights and shades, bold-mingling, threw
A lustre grand;
And seem'd to my astonish'd view,
A well-known land.
Here, rivers in the sea were lost;
There, mountains to the skies were tost:
Here, tumbling billows mark'd the coast,
With surging foam;
There, distant shone Art's lofty boast,
The lordly dome.
Here, Doon pour'd down his far-fetch'd floods;
There, well-fed Irwine stately thuds:
Auld hermit Ayr staw thro' his woods,
On to the shore;
And many a lesser torrent scuds,
With seeming roar.
Low, in a sandy valley spread,
An ancient borough rear'd her head;
Still, as in Scottish story read,
She boasts a race,
To ev'ry nobler virtue bred,
And polish'd grace.
By stately tow'r, or palace fair,
Or ruins pendent in the air,
Bold stems of heroes, here and there,
I could discern;
Some seem'd to muse, some seem'd to dare,
With feature stern.
My heart did glowing transport feel,
To see a race heroic wheel,
And brandish round the deep-dy'd steel
In sturdy blows;
While back-recoiling seem'd to reel
Their southron foes.
His Country's Saviour, mark him well!
Bold Richardton's heroic swell;
The chief on Sark who glorious fell,
In high command;
And He whom ruthless fates expel
His native land.
There, where a sceptr'd Pictish shade
Stalk'd round his ashes lowly laid,
I mark'd a martial race portray'd
In colours strong;
Bold, soldier-featur'd, undismay'd
They strode along.
Thro' many a wild romantic grove,
Near many a hermit-fancy'd cove,
(Fit haunts for friendship or for love,)
In musing mood,
An aged judge, I saw him rove,
With deep-struck, reverential awe,
The learned sire and son I saw,
To Nature's God and Nature's law,
They gave their lore,
This, all its source and end to draw;
That, to adore.
Brydone's brave ward I well could spy,
Beneath old Scotia's smiling eye;
Who call'd on Fame, low standing by,
To hand him on,
Where many a Patriot-name on high
And hero shone.
* * * * *
With musing-deep, astonish'd stare,
I view'd the heavenly-seeming fair;
A whisp'ring throb did witness bear
Of kindred sweet,
When with an elder sister's air
She did me greet.
"All hail! My own inspired bard!
In me thy native Muse regard!
Nor longer mourn thy fate is hard,
Thus poorly low!
I come to give thee such reward
As we bestow.
"Know, the great genius of this land,
Has many a light aërial band,
Who, all beneath his high command,
As arts or arms they understand,
Their labours ply.
"They Scotia's race among them share;
Some fire the soldier on to dare;
Some rouse the patriot up to bare
Some teach the bard, a darling care,
The tuneful art.
"'Mong swelling floods of reeking gore,
They, ardent, kindling spirits, pour;
Or 'mid the venal senate's roar,
They, sightless, stand,
To mend the honest patriot-lore,
And grace the hand.
"And when the bard, or hoary sage,
Charm or instruct the future age,
They bind the wild, poetic rage
Or point the inconclusive page
Full on the eye.
"Hence Fullarton, the brave and young;
Hence Dempster's zeal-inspired tongue;
Hence sweet harmonious Beattie sung
His 'Minstrel' lays;
Or tore, with noble ardour stung,
The sceptic's bays.
"To lower orders are assign'd
The humbler ranks of human-kind,
The rustic bard, the lab'ring hind,
All choose, as various they're inclin'd
The various man.
"When yellow waves the heavy grain,
The threat'ning storm some, strongly, rein;
Some teach to meliorate the plain,
And some instruct the shepherd-train,
Blythe o'er the hill.
"Some hint the lover's harmless wile;
Some grace the maiden's artless smile;
Some soothe the lab'rer's weary toil,
For humble gains,
And make his cottage-scenes beguile
His cares and pains.
"Some, bounded to a district-space,
Explore at large man's infant race,
To mark the embryotic trace
Of rustic bard:
And careful note each op'ning grace,
A guide and guard.
"Of these am I--Coila my name;
And this district as mine I claim,
Where once the Campbells, chiefs of fame,
Held ruling pow'r:
I mark'd thy embryo-tuneful flame,
Thy natal hour.
"With future hope, I oft would gaze,
Fond, on thy little early ways,
Thy rudely carroll'd, chiming phrase,
In uncouth rhymes,
Fir'd at the simple, artless lays
Of other times.
"I saw thee seek the sounding shore,
Delighted with the dashing roar;
Or when the north his fleecy store
Drove through the sky,
I saw grim Nature's visage hoar
Struck thy young eye.
"Or when the deep green-mantled earth
Warm cherish'd ev'ry flow'ret's birth,
And joy and music pouring forth
In ev'ry grove,
I saw thee eye the general mirth
With boundless love.
"When ripen'd fields, and azure skies,
Called forth the reaper's rustling noise,
I saw thee leave their evening joys,
And lonely stalk,
To vent thy bosom's swelling rise
In pensive walk.
"When youthful love, warm-blushing, strong,
Keen-shivering shot thy nerves along,
Those accents, grateful to thy tongue,
Th' adored Name
I taught thee how to pour in song,
To soothe thy flame.
"I saw thy pulse's maddening play,
Wild send thee pleasure's devious way,
Misled by Fancy's meteor-ray,
By passion driven;
But yet the light that led astray
Was light from Heaven.
"I taught thy manners-painting strains,
The loves, the ways of simple swains,
Till now, o'er all my wide domains
Thy fame extends;
And some, the pride of Coila's plains,
Become thy friends.
"Thou canst not learn, nor can I show,
To paint with Thomson's landscape glow;
Or wake the bosom-melting throe,
With Shenstone's art;
Or pour, with Gray, the moving flow,
Warm on the heart.
"Yet, all beneath the unrivall'd rose,
The lowly daisy sweetly blows;
Tho' large the forest's monarch throws
His army shade,
Yet green the juicy hawthorn grows,
Adown the glade.
"Then never murmur nor repine;
Strive in thy humble sphere to shine;
And, trust me, not Potosi's mine,
Nor king's regard,
Can give a bliss o'ermatching thine,
A rustic bard.
"To give my counsels all in one,
Thy tuneful flame still careful fan;
Preserve the dignity of man,
With soul erect;
And trust, the universal plan
Will all protect.
"And wear thou this,"--she solemn said,
And bound the holly round my head:
The polish'd leaves and berries red
Did rustling play;
And like a passing thought, she fled
In light away.
[Footnote 19: Duan, a term of Ossian's for the different divisions of a
digressive poem. See his "Cath-Loda," vol. ii. of Macpherson's
[Footnote 20: The Wallaces.]
[Footnote 21: Sir William Wallace.]
[Footnote 22: Adam Wallace, of Richardton, cousin to the immortal
preserver of Scottish independence.]
[Footnote 23: Wallace, Laird of Craigie, who was second in command
under Douglas, Earl of Ormond, at the famous battle on the banks of
Sark, fought anno 1448. That glorious victory was principally owing to
the judicious conduct and intrepid valour of the gallant laird of
Craigie, who died of his wounds after the action.]
[Footnote 24: Coilus, king of the Picts, from whom the district of Kyle
is said to take its name, lies buried, as tradition says, near the
family seat of the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, where his burial-place
is still shown.]
[Footnote 25: Barskimming, the seat of the late Lord Justice-Clerk (Sir
Thomas Miller of Glenlee, afterwards President of the Court of
[Footnote 26: Catrine, the seat of Professor Dugald Steward.]
[Footnote 27: Colonel Fullarton.]